COX 2 Inhibitors / NSAIDs

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are drugs which reduce pain, fever and swelling. They are often prescribed or given for inflammation of the joints due to arthritis, bursitis, tendinitis, or simple overexertion. As the name implies, they are different than steroids, which also reduce inflammation. If you ever take an over-the-counter pain reliever, you probably have NSAIDs in your medicine chest; some common NSAIDs include aspirin, naproxen and ibuprofen.

NSAIDs work by blocking prostaglandin production. Prostaglandins are chemicals that perform different functions, including causing the the swelling and pain associated with inflammation. In the late 1990s, medical researchers discovered that there are two different enzymes, cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) and cycloxoygenase-2 (COX-2), and that while COX-2 enzymes typically do most of the work in creating inflammatory responses within the body, COX-1 enzymes control the prostaglandins that protect the inner lining of the stomach. This explains why common NSAIDs, which block production of both COX-1 and COX-2, have been known to cause stomach irritation in addition to relieving inflammation and pain.

This research led to a new sub-class of NSAIDs called COX-2 inhibitors. Because the COX-2 enzyme produces prostaglandins which do not play a role in the stomach or intestines, but target only other areas of the body where inflammation occurs, a drug that inhibits the COX-2 enzyme can help alleviate joint inflammation pain without upsetting the chemical balance of the digestive system. Some of the most popular prescription drugs ever, including Vioxx (rofecoxib) and Bextra (valdecoxib) fall under this category of COX-2 inhibitors. Currently, the only COX-2 inhibitor which is still available is Celebrex (celecoxib).

Although they provided great pain relief to millions of people who suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, menstrual cramps, and sports injuries, COX-2 inhibitors also had a number of side effects, including nausea, diarrhea, flatulence, abdominal pain, headache and insomnia. In some cases, the use of Vioxx and Bextra have led to severe side effects such as heart attacks, stroke, ulcers, abdominal bleeding, and even death. In patients with a history of heart disease or risk factors for heart disease, NSAIDs and COX-2 inhibitors can be particularly dangerous. Part of the reason for this is the fact that the COX-2 enzyme is not entirely bad. Despite the fact that it creates pain and inflammation, it also can help prevent clotting of the blood. COX-2 inhibitors, therefore, can cause damage to the patient's blood flow, which in turn creates a higher risk of strokes, blood clots, heart attacks and other heart diseases. Kidney disease and kidney failure have also been reported by patients who use COX-2 inhibitors.

Vioxx and Bextra were recalled, following a multitude of reported illnesses and deaths, in 2004 and 2005, respectively. The Merck pharmaceutical company, which manufactured Vioxx, came under fire from opponents who said that the drug was not thoroughly studied before being presented to the Food and Drug Administration for review, and that it was pushed through the approval process without appropriate testing. Independent studies of the drug had shown that it was not as safe as Merck claimed. When Merck ran its own studies, hoping to disprove these claims of Vioxx's hazards, their researchers, too, discovered that the anti-inflammatory drug did indeed lead to an increased risk of heart failure, kidney failure and stroke.

As a result of the widespread use and enormous popularity of Vioxx, thousands of people have suffered varying degrees of side effects, and may even have been obliged to undergo surgery for the resulting heart problems. You may be aware that there are a number of individual and class-action lawsuits being brought against Merck, the maker of Vioxx, and Pfizer, the manufacturer of Bextra, for damages. If you have taken one of these COX-2 inhibitors and have suffered ill effects as a result, it may behoove you to contact an attorney in your area who specializing in pharmaceutical lawsuits. There are experienced attorneys who have argued and won Vioxx and Bextra cases in every state, so contact one today and discuss your case, in order to find out whether you may be entitled to compensation. If a family member's death has been caused by one of these drugs, you could be entitled to compensation in a wrongful death suit.